Orlando, Florida, is a great place to go when you want some fun, either with your family or with a bunch of friends. It’s also a good alternative to the beach if you are not a big beach fan, and has various sources of entertainment.
The most obvious thing to do when you go to Orlando is Walt Disney World. Disney World is made up of 4 different “amusement” parks, 2 water parks, and 2 miniature golf parks, as well as various hotels. On property hotels range from “value” to “moderate” to “deluxe” hotels. You can also stay off property, but I don’t recommend it if you don’t have a car. Also as an on-property guest, you can have extra time in the parks when they are closed to the public (called Extra Magic Hours). Each day one park opens an hour early or stays open 3 hours late, exclusively for on-property guests.
The amusement parks include Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. If you have been to Disneyland in California then you will find many similarities between Disneyland and Magic Kingdom in Disney World. Magic Kingdom has many of the same rides, like the teacups, the Indiana Jones ride, and the Buzz Lightyear ride where each rider gets a laser “gun” and shoots at targets to get points.
Once you venture out of Magic Kingdom, you can talk the Monorail over to Epcot. Epcot has more “attractions” than actual rides, but it is still a pretty cool park to go to. My favorite area in Epcot is the World Showcase, where 11 countries have pavilions. Each pavilion has something unique to offer visitors, something unique to the country they are representing. For example, the Norway pavilion has a Viking boat ride, the German pavilion has an all you can eat restaurant set up like a German beer hall, and the United Kingdom has the Rose and Crown pub-style restaurant. The Canadian pavilion has Le Cellier, which is a steakhouse with KILLER cheese soup. Both Rose and Crown and Le Cellier are very popular restaurants in Epcot, so it is STRONGLY recommended that you make a priority seating reservation as far in advance as possible (reservations can be made 180 days in advance). Epcot also has the Test Track and Mission Space rides. Test Track is just like the name sounds—it is a ride designed around the tests that car companies do to test their cars. Mission Space is a ride that takes you through what a space shuttle launch is like, and each person in your “shuttle” has a different responsibility to carry out during the ride. I don’t advise doing either of these rides right after lunch, and don’t do Mission Space more than twice in a row.
Another fun park in Disney World is Animal Kingdom. If you plan on going to Animal Kingdom, you should do so in the morning, as close to park opening as possible, not because they get really busy, but because the animals are more active before it gets too hot outside. If you do go sometime after noon and it is hot out, you may still see the animals, they just may be asleep. You can also go on the Kali River Rapids ride to cool off. Word of advice, though: Get a locker. A good way to get out of the heat in Animal Kingdom is to go into “It’s Tough to be a Bug.” While in line for this, see how many different animals you can point out carved into the Tree of Life.
Last, there is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, home of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rock n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith. Hollywood Studios is kind of Disney’s version of Universal Studios. There is a backlot tour, studio experiences, and various shows. My favorite part of Hollywood Studios has to be the food though. I highly recommend going to the Sci Fi Dine In for lunch while you are there, and to 50’s Prime Time Café (for dinner, if you can get in). 50’s Prime Time Café is another highly popular restaurant, and a reservation is STRONGLY recommended in order to avoid disappointment.
In addition to the 4 main parks in Disney World, there are 2 water parks which are open seasonally, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, and 2 miniature golf parks, Disney’s Fantasia Gardens and the Santa Claus themed Winter Summerland.
Outside of Disney World there is a lot of other options, too. You can drive out to Tampa Bay to visit Busch Gardens, another amusement parks with rides like the Taganyika Tidal Wave and Congo River Rapids (both water rides) and the Scorpion (a roller coaster). You can also drive out and tour the Kennedy Space Center, where there is a slim chance you might see a shuttle launch. Even if there is not a shuttle launch, there are still tours that you can take to see things around the space center.
In Orlando you can also Universal Studios Orlando and Islands of Adventure. Universal Studios is similar to the one in Hollywood, California. My favorite ride is at the Studio in Orlando, though. The Men in Black ride is awesome. They also just opened up a Simpsons ride based on the TV show. Islands of Adventure is for those people that really like roller coasters, plus the Spiderman right there is incredible!! When my parents and I went, I ended up going on a lot of the rides alone (my folks are Certified Coaster Chickens). The roller coasters are not for those with easily upset stomachs, or for those who just do not like roller coasters. But there are some water rides and other rides that aren’t quite as stomach-turning.
Orlando also has Sea World, which has many of the same animal shows (like the Shamu show and the dolphin show) and things to do as the one in San Diego. If you want to get wet at any of these shows, sit in the rows labeled “Splash Zone” in order to cool off. The park in Orlando also has a water ride called Journey to Atlantis, as well as the Kraken roller coaster (which is definitely not a ride for those that get queasy easily).
Also in partnership with Sea World is Discovery Cove. This is an all day adventure. Advanced reservations are required, and peak seasons can sell out weeks or months in advance. With a reservation, you can swim with dolphins, tropical fish, and sting rays. There is also a program called Trainer for a Day, where you work with the above mentioned animals and fish, but you also get to go into the Bird Aviary, and help the trainers feed the sting rays, and you get TWO sessions with the dolphins. Trainer for a Day is an ALL DAY activity, and not cheap, but WELL worth every dime.
Discovery Cove also has packages for folks that don’t want to swim with the dolphins, but at least one person in your party has to have a dolphin-swim package booked. Regardless of which package you pick, it includes continental breakfast, a yummy lunch, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages all day long.
In my opinion, if you want to do everything that Orlando has to offer, plan for a 2 week vacation and schedule “down days” to keep from running yourself ragged. If you are limited to only a week, it’s possible to satisfactorily cover Walt Disney world in 4 days, with 1 day for Discover Cove, and 2 days for Sea World, Universal Studios Orlando, or Islands of Adventure.
If you are interested in booking a trip to Orlando, contact Kick Butt Vacations today for more information.